Springfield opponent will play GWOC team in state final for fourth time

St. Edward quarterback Kevin Burke, left, kisses the trophy after St. Edward beat Wayne 35-28 in the Division I high school football championship football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

caption arrowCaption
St. Edward quarterback Kevin Burke, left, kisses the trophy after St. Edward beat Wayne 35-28 in the Division I high school football championship football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Lakewood St. Edward defeated Wayne three times in Division I state championship game

For Lakewood St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo, the story of the 2021 football season starts with the way the 2020 season ended — with a 35-21 loss to Medina in the second round of the playoffs.

“It being the COVID year and everything else, it didn’t sit well with the kids,” Lombardo said Tuesday on a teleconference featuring head coaches from all 14 state finalists, “and they really went to work — like we always do. But I could tell there was a more intense focus with many of the kids, particularly the kids who would be seniors. They didn’t want that feeling again. I thought all through January and February and March and through the summer, you saw that kind of focus, and it kind of carried over into how we played. I think we played one of the toughest schedules certainly in the state. Each week, it was a big task. We gave the kids a challenge, and they responded each and every week and did a great job.”

No. 3 St. Edward (14-1) will play No. 5 Springfield (13-1) in the Division I state championship game at 7:30 p.m., Friday, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. It’s a 63-mile drive for St. Edward and a 173-mile drive for Springfield.

Explore» RELATED: Alumni proud of Springfield's run

St. Edward plays an independent schedule, which allows it to play powerhouses from this state and others. It played Cincinnati Moeller on Oct. 16 and lost 28-21 in overtime. St. Edward ranked No. 1 in the state entering that game. Springfield, ranked second for the first time in its history, likely would have taken over the top spot but suffered its only loss one day earlier, 22-21 at Miamisburg.

“The one we lost in overtime, we hadn’t trailed all year and we didn’t even trail in that game until the one play in overtime,” Lombardo said. “They scored first and then we didn’t score. We had a turnover on the first play of overtime, and that’s how we lost.”

St. Edward has won six straight games since it lost and beat Upper Arlington 16-10 in the state semifinals.

“The kids have really took a businesslike attitude,” Lombard said. “They really like playing with each other and for each other and for the school, and we’re just happy to be able to have a chance to do it one more week.”

Although St. Edward has not played Springfield, it beat another Greater Western Ohio Conference team, Wayne, three times in the state championship game: 35-28 in 2010; 31-21 in 2014; and 45-35 in 2015.

caption arrowCaption
Dec. 4, 2010: Braxton Miller (5) prepares to stiff-arm St. Edwards defender Cory Blackstock during the fourth quarter of the Ohio High School Div. I Football Championship game in Canton. St. Edwards won the game 35-28. (PHIL LONG/OHIO PRESS PHOTO SYSTEM)

Credit: Staff photos

Dec. 4, 2010: Braxton Miller (5) prepares to stiff-arm St. Edwards defender Cory Blackstock during the fourth quarter of the Ohio High School Div. I Football Championship game in Canton. St. Edwards won the game 35-28. (PHIL LONG/OHIO PRESS PHOTO SYSTEM)

Credit: Staff photos

caption arrowCaption
Dec. 4, 2010: Braxton Miller (5) prepares to stiff-arm St. Edwards defender Cory Blackstock during the fourth quarter of the Ohio High School Div. I Football Championship game in Canton. St. Edwards won the game 35-28. (PHIL LONG/OHIO PRESS PHOTO SYSTEM)

Credit: Staff photos

Credit: Staff photos

In the first game, Braxton Miller ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more, but Wayne let a 21-7 second-half lead slip away. Four years later, Ahmad Wagner returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and Robert Landers returned a fumble 13 yards for a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t enough to beat St. Edward.

In the third game, Wayne rallied from a 31-14 deficit with a 21-0 run to take a 35-31 lead with 3:47 left. St. Edward scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:19 left and then added one more score after recovering a final kick as Lombardo’s first season as head coach ended with a championship.

“(This) game had it all,” Lombardo said then. “Great running and passing, big plays. What more could you ask for a state championship?”

Explore» MORE ON WILDCATS: Douglass says Springfield is ready

St. Edward also beat another Southwest Ohio team, Cincinnati Colerain, 24-10 to claim its most recent state championship in 2018.

St. Edward has won the state championship the last four times it has reached the final game after losing in its first three championship game appearances: 14-12 to Moeller in 1975; 21-20 to Fairfield in 1986; and 31-7 to Cincinnati Elder in 2003.

While the coaches on the St. Edward staff will benefit from the experience of playing in state championship games, it will be a new experience for most of the players. The seniors were freshmen in 2018 when the program won its last state title.

“I tell our kids all the time in essence every playoff game’s a state final,” Lombardo said, “because if you don’t win, you don’t get to play anymore. This is just the last one. You don’t get a game after this. But the mindset has been the same throughout the six weeks.”

About the Author